Why Pokémon Excels at Worldbuilding
Look at the world around you and add Pokemon
Pokémon Sun and Moon are going to be available in just a few weeks, and I’m really excited to start playing. To whet our appetites, Nintendo just released a demo of the game and while not too exciting, it gave us a great look into the world of Alola.
This new region, based on Hawaii, is just one more part that adds to the amazing world building that The Pokémon Company has done. How have they done it? They’ve taken the world around them and simply added Pokémon.
When you think of worldbuilding, you may think of fantasy games like Skyrim or Dungeons & Dragons. But these parallel worlds don’t need to be that distanced from reality.
The Pokémon series has pretty much matched reality in terms of technical prowess. Sure, their PC system is more sophisticated, but you can tell through each generation that other tech has advanced. In Gold & Silver, you had a Pokégear which let you call people and listen to the radio. In X & Y you had a device which could stream video.
This matched our own reality. Mobile video has only recently entered the mainstream. It’s instantly relatable.
The series has always been about reimagining the world, making it a touch more magical by putting a spin on it. It’s familiar yet different, allowing it to appear everywhere and stay in your subconscious.
The details that the developers add make you stop and think, “Huh, that’s really neat.”
In the teaser for Sun & Moon, there were a few concept drawings. One had a firetruck with a Blastoise in the back. While we may have firetrucks and hoses to store water, there’s just a tiny shift in this world so that Pokémon do it instead. Isn’t that neat?
The details go even further. It’s a yellow firetruck, which is very common in Hawaii. This allowed some people to conclude that the region would be based in Hawaii before it was officially revealed.
But they don’t just reference the real world. There’s also many references to previous games. In the original, an agent from the Global Police was investigating Team Rocket. At the time it was just a random NPC.
Three generations later is when they introduced the character Looker from the International Police. This character appears in several games, each at a different point in his timeline. With every appearance, his story grows more mysterious and complex.
There is a reference in X & Y to the games Ruby & Sapphire. In the region’s large museum, there is a piece of art referring not just to those games, but using the artwork from one of the trading cards. It creates this sense of reality that is as rich as ours that references itself because it’s as connected in a reality like ours.
The world of Pokémon is exactly that, an entire world that continues to grow and become further interconnected. You don’t need to understand the entire series lore to appreciate the world they’ve created. However, the deeper you go, the more you’ll appreciate it.